Lera Auerbach – Cetera desunt
Sonnet for String Quartet / Quartet No.3
Commissioned by Jana Marko and Alexander Gérard for the Elbphilharmonie
When I was younger I enjoyed writing program notes for my music – I felt it was a way for me to protect it from possible misunderstanding – one last service that a composer could do for his child before it’s fully on its own.
I no longer like writing about my music. Even being interviewed about it becomes an inner-burden. What I realized is that you can’t protect your “child” and should just let it be without any attempts to explain or defend it. Sometimes letting go is the hardest thing to do. The music is out there on its own – whether you like it or not, it is no longer under your control, and frankly, it never was. Revealing the umbilical chord that still ties you, as a composer, to your work - only does your music disservice.
Any work of art – a poem, a painting, a symphony, at its best – is much larger then its creator; or at least its co-creator – the one with a pen in hand; the one, who, for better or worse, claims authenticity to its title.
Akhmatova wrote – “Who knows, from what dust the poem is born…” (To be more accurate, she used a stronger word – instead of “dust” she wrote, “trash”, or “waste”.) No one knows this, except the Poet. No one should know. Let shadows remain shadows; the dirty dishes should stay in the kitchen and not spoil the feast.
Last spring I was working on two quartets at the same time – Primera Luz for the Tokyo String Quartet and Cetera desunt for the Petersen Quartet. I did not know which one would be written first. In fact, at the beginning, Primera Luz was subtitled as the Quartet No.3 and Cetera desunt was No.2 until Time reversed this order according to the premiere dates. Yet no two other works of mine are further apart from each other than these two quartets. In some way they are such opposites that, perhaps, they complete each other as if addressing the same questions but from very different prospective.
Cetera desunt is written in a form similar to strambotto romagnuolo sonnet, which octave is formed as ab ab cc dd. Musically, the inner rhymes between the movements follow freely this structure. I am not going to comment on the titles for the movements. Nomina sunt odiosa.
Let music connect directly to the listener regardless of the composer’s own attempts to interpret its essence. Jorge Luis Borges wrote: “A man sets himself in the task of portraying the world. Over the years he fills a given surface with images of provinces and kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fish, rooms, instruments, heavenly bodies, horses, and people. Shortly before he dies he discovers that this patient labyrinth of lines is a drawing of his own face”. Sapienti sat. Cetera desunt.
Lera Auerbach, June 2006